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INDIANAPOLIS — Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta knows NFL teams must decide whether to use the franchise tag by next Tuesday’s deadline. So the next week will be vital because DeCosta hopes a contract with quarterback Lamar Jackson will be done by then.
“We’re hopeful we get a deal done with Lamar before that happens,” DeCosta said Wednesday.
If a deal doesn’t get done, the Ravens will use the franchise tag on Jackson and that’s bad news for everyone involved. Jackson doesn’t want that because he prefers a fully guaranteed multi-year contract that pays between $40-50 million per season for the next four or five years.
The Ravens don’t want to tag Jackson because it could cost them up to $45 million guaranteed for one year and the entire amount would count on the salary cap. A multi-year deal makes room for prorations and lower salary cap costs.
So, to use football jargon, this issue has reached the two-minute warning. And the sides are proceeding accordingly.
LAMAR JACKSON AND RAVENS DEALING WITH MULTIPLE ISSUES FROM CONTRACT TO FRANCHISE TAG TO NEW OFFENSE
That means no ploys to make the other side sweat, based on how DeCosta describes it.
“Yeah, you know, Lamar and I are talking, we met recently,” the GM said. “It’s an ongoing discussion. We both understand the urgency of the situation. It’s been a good dialogue, a good discussion. I’m optimistic. As I continue to be optimistic, will see where it goes.”
Progress has been slow because the sides haven’t quite agreed on terms, such as Jackson’s wish for guarantees.
But for the first time, DeCosta also admitted what everyone understood: Jackson not having an agent has slowed the process.
“Yeah, I have a lot of regard for the player first and foremost,” DeCosta said. “I think when you deal with an agent, sometimes you’re able to speak very freely. Position yourself a certain way, you have different arguments that you can use that maybe you wouldn’t say to a player. So I think that’s part of it.
“There’s a lot of respect, tremendous respect because I’m with a player like Lamar, a player like Roquan Smith, who also represented himself, every day. You see the commitment, you understand where they’re coming from. So it’s definitely a different dynamic. It can be challenging.”
If the sides don’t meet the challenge the franchise tag is definitely happening. But DeCosta said the Ravens haven’t decided which one yet.
There are two.
The exclusive franchise tag would preclude any other team from negotiating with Jackson. That one will cost the Ravens upwards of $45 million against their cap. And that would basically shut the team down for free agency.
The non-exclusive tag costs less, $32.4 million for 2023, but allows any other team to sign Jackson to a contract and if the Ravens do not match, they get two first round picks in exchange.
The Ravens don’t want two first-round picks for Jackson. They want Jackson.
“You can’t win in this league without a strong quarterback,” DeCosta said. “I mean, that’s been proven. So we want Lamar here. We think he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league. He’s certainly one of our best players and we want him back.”